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CLAS 435 A: The Ancient Novel

Meeting Time: 
MWF 9:30am - 10:20am
DEN 257
Catherine M. Connors

Syllabus Description:

435 image 2017 SP.jpg

Catherine Connors, Department of Classics
Office Hours: Wed 4:30-5:30; and by appointment (11:30 is often good). Office: Denny 262 E (with the Classics Dept Main Office. e-mail: office phone 206-543-2266 (please leave a message)

In this course we will read four lively novels, each about two thousand years old. The earliest prose fiction in the European tradition, they tell exciting stories of young love and far flung adventure in a cosmopolitan world. Reading them in English translation offers a whirlwind tour of the Greek and Roman world and its literature.

Along the way, assignments will focus on using and strengthening skills in close reading, research, presentation and writing that will serve you well wherever you go from here. Questions to be considered will include how the novels represent society: do they replicate or undermine the beliefs that structure Greek and Roman systems of class and gender inequity? The characters in the novels move through worlds of many different cultures: how do the novels capture the experience of diversity in the Greek and Roman worlds? How do the novels investigate the process of communication across cultural divides? To what extent could the ancient novels invite their ancient audiences to reflect upon or critique the structures of power that they inhabited?


Required Texts (available at the University Bookstore)

Greek Fiction: Callirhoe, Daphnis and Chloe, Letters of Chion Ed. Helen Morales;

Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon, trans. Tim Whitmarsh

Apuleius: The Golden Ass, trans. S. Ruden

Petronius: The Satyricon, trans. S. Ruden

Grades will be calculated approximately as follows:

10% preparation for and participation in discussion
20 % 300-500 word written responses to writing prompts
(straightforward, one for each novel; they build on ideas that we develop in class). I am planning to set them up as assignments to be submitted via canvas, but you are also welcome to submit them as actual pieces of paper. If you want to write on something other than the prompt, we can discuss that. Sometimes it's very helpful for me to be able to share these with the class. If you would prefer I not do that with yours, you can let me know.

50 %four quite short quizzes, one on each novel. Short answers. Some of the questions will involve recognizing and commenting on quotations from the novels involving issues that have been emphasized in class. My aim is for these to be fun and to reward you for the time you spend with the books. Some sample questions will be distributed in advance.

20% paper/project 6-8 pp (1800-2000 words). You will work with me to connect your work with course materials to interest that you want to explore, get some practice in locating and using scholarly research resources, and share your work with the class before handing in the paper/project. Traditional paper projects may be done (I have lots of topics to suggest), but I also encourage you to think creatively and adventurously to consider non-traditional projects that might connect to your other interests and pursuits.


Optional W course: Per UW policies, a W course "must require 10-15 pages [about 2500-4000 words] of graded, out-of-class writing, in the form of a longer paper plus a revision or two or more short papers," and written work must receive feedback on organization, clarity, etc., not just on content.  Please let me know if you are interested in the W; we'll want to make sure that your total amount of writing is adequate for the requirement.


For those students interested in a 5 credit experience you have three options for registering for 2 credits of Classics 490.

  1. Produce a more developed project that cites and discusses at least 8 secondary sources (articles or book chapters) (I will help you structure an appropriate project and locate appropriate sources). A fun option for someone who has a stong interest in a particular topic or aspect of the ancient world.


  1. Read Chariton's Callirhoe (included in the course text Greek fiction) and provide answers to questions about it (about 1500 words).


  1. Read 5 scholarly articles related to the course material and briefly introduce the rest of the class to the ideas and issues that the scholar investigates. (I can direct you to appropriate and fun articles). A fun option for someone who would enjoy an interdisciplinary snapshot of Classics as a field of research.


Overview of the novels
Apuleius, The Golden Ass Set in the 100’s CE, and written in Latin. A man from Corinth gets a little too curious about witchcraft and for his trouble is turned into an ass. He sees the seamy underbelly of life in Greece under Roman rule, and is eventually redeemed and transformed back into a man. What exactly did he learn? Raises interesting questions about the range of religious experiences in Greek and Roman life and provides an unusually detailed look at the lives of the lowest socio-economic classes.

Petronius, The Satyricon A racy parody of the love and travel themes of the ancient novels. Written in Latin. Full of fascinating and strange details about life in Rome, the relationship between past and present, art and life, those in power and those who must submit to them. Is Petronius commenting on the decadence of the emperor Nero’s court?

Longus, Daphnis and Chloe. This boy meets girl story takes place on the island of Lesbos, (home to the Greek lyric poet Sappho, whose verses on love are some of the most powerful in the European tradition). Longus explores the themes of city and country, art and nature, eroticism and gender, in a lushly imagined rural setting. But the city is never totally out of the picture: is Longus’ novel an escapist fantasy, or a prescription for the proper approach to civic life? A lyrical celebration of love, with an awareness of its costs.

Achilles Tatius, Leukippe and Clitophon This boy meets girl story presents itself as a fictional exploration of big questions the Greek philosopher Plato liked to ask about love and knowledge. Does Achilles’s story of love (and pirates) challenge Plato’s approaches to love, marriage, and identity?

detailed syllabus

note: The reading assignments are designed to be completed by the date listed. This will permit your active and enjoyable engagement in class discussions! As some people have a ways to travel to arrive to class, I will try to circulate a detailed description of what will be discussed dring the first ten minutes of class so that if you are likely to be late you can look at it/work on it in advance.

Mon Mar 27: Introduction to the course, and to Apuleius

Wed Mar 29: Apuleius Book 1: magic and landscape 

Fri Mar 31:  Apuleius Book 2-3: surfaces and their deceptions


Mon April 3: Apuleius 4-6: Cupid and Psyche

Wed April 5: Apuleius 7-8: Charite and her troubles

Fri April 7: Apuleius 9-10: stories and storytellers  


Mon April 10: Apuleius 11: Isis and revelations

Wed April 12: Apuleius writing assignment due

Fri April 14: Apuleius quiz and introduction to Petronius


Mon April 17: Sex in the City  (Chapters 1-26)

Wed April 19: At Trimalchio's (Chapters 27-82)

Fri April 21: Sea voyage and Shipwreck (Chapters 83-115)


Mon April 24: Croton (Chapters 116-141)

Wed April 26: Petronius writing assignment due

Fri April 28:  Petronius Quiz and introduction to Longus


Mon May 1: Research tools in Classics: JSTOR, ARTSTOR and other wonders

Wed May 3:  Longus 1-2: nature and culture

Fri May 5: Longus 3-4: country and city


Mon May 8:  Longus writing due

Wed May 10:  Longus Quiz

Fri May 12:  Achilles Tatius 1-2: Under the sign of the plane tree


Mon May 15:  Achilles Tatius 3-4: Under the sign of the phoenix

Wed May 17:  Achilles Tatius 5-6: Alexandria and beyond

Fri May 19: Achilles Tatius 7-8: under the sign of Artemis


Mon May 22: Achilles Tatius writing due.

Wed May 24: Achilles Tatius quiz and (grad student) projects

Fri May 26: Project presentations   


Mon May 29: NO CLASS Memorial Day Observed

Wed May 31: Project presentations   

Fri June 2: Project presentations  


Final Projects due June 7.


Prompts for short writing assignments. For each novel you have a choice of two topics; generally these are designed to allow you to build on issues that we have focused on in class. If you have hopes of writing instead on another topic that catches your fancy I am willing to discuss possibilities for that too.

Recommended procedure for writing assignments:

Don't agonize. I just want to reward you for spending time with the novels and formulating and organizing some of your thoughts about them. Chose the prompt you are interested in. Review your notes and the text to select 3-4 (more are also welcome) elements/pieces of evidence/passages you wish to discuss and write up your observations about them. Finish by writing a polished introduction and formulating a conclusion. Enjoy the pleasure of rereading - there is always more to notice and think about in works as carefully crafted as these novels are.

  1. Due April 12

Apuleius: Choose any one of the inset narratives in The Golden Ass. How do the themes (or other important features) of that story relate to the themes (or other important features) of the story of Lucius as a whole?


Consider the last book of the novel (book 11): how does it relate to what came before?

  1. Due April 26

Petronius: Compare the representation of the household in Satyricon with that in the Golden Ass. To what is extent is a household a safe place? A dangerous place? A destination? Somewhere to escape from? Why do you think each author constructed his representations of households as he did?


Choose a few items at Trimachio's dinner party: how do they relate or contribute to the Satyricon's overall themes?

  1. Due May 8: Longus: Analyze Longus’ use of the story of Echo. How does it contribute to the themes of the whole story of Daphnis and Chloe? (Think about what Echo might symbolize.)


How does Longus' novel talk about the work that sustains households? 

  1. Due May 22: Achilles Tatius spends a lot of time describing the painting of Andromeda and Perseus. In what ways does his description of this painting extend or deepen his themes and imagery?


Compare and contrast the representation of the natural world in Achilles and in one of the other novels we have read. How does each author use elements of nature to develop the themes of his novel?  

Access and Accommodations: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Classics 435 Rubric for the grading of written work







2.0 and below

Thesis statement/

overall plot

Clear and convincing thesis statement

Clear and convincing thesis statement

Somewhat clear thesis statement

Problematic thesis statement

No thesis statement




Argument is substantial and sophisticated in its approach to significant features of the texts

Argument is substantial and addresses multiple features of the texts

Argument is clear, but somewhat limited in scope; fails to address some significant features of the texts

Argument is unclear, rambling or fails to address many significant features of the text

Argument is insubstantial or poorly constructed

Use of examples/


Numerous detailed readings of specific examples effectively support and amplify the argument. Use of examples goes well beyond what was discussed in class

Examples are well chosen and effectively support the argument. Use of examples goes somewhat beyond what was discussed in class 

Examples are sufficient to support the argument, may be limited to examples discussed at length in class

Some examples used effectively,  but some parts of the argument are not effectively supported by examples

Examples are insufficient to support the argument of the paper


No mistakes in discussing the texts

No or very minor mistakes in discussing the texts

Occasional mistakes or omissions in discussing the texts

Pervasive mistakes or omissions in discussing the texts

Citations of the texts are systemically inaccurate

Overall standard of writing

Varied and interesting sentence structure; well constructed paragraphs linked by effective transitions;  excellent spelling and formatting.

Clear sentences, coherent paragraphs and overall structure of argument. Excellent spelling and formatting

Generally clear, but some incoherence in sentences or weaknesses in paragraphing, transitions, spelling, formatting

Unclarity in sentence structure or paragraphing makes the argument difficult to follow. Many spelling errors

Poor sentence structure, unclear paragraphing

Pervasive errors


Catalog Description: 
Reading and discussion of the principal Greek and Roman novels, the earliest European prose fiction, with attention to earlier literature and to imperial culture.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:05pm